Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

STEMM Faces Generational Gender Gap

By Guy Nolch

A meta-analysis of academic authorship has concluded that gender equity in science remains decades away.

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For all the efforts being made to promote opportunities for women in science, parity between the genders remains decades away in some scientific disciplines, according to a meta-research article published in PLoS Biology ( “Although women are increasingly studying Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, and Medicine (STEMM) subjects at university, women comprise a minority of senior staff, are less often trained in elite research groups, are promoted more slowly, and are more likely to leave STEMM careers,” the paper ominously began.

The University of Melbourne researchers used the online database to identify the gender of more than 36 million authors of more than 10 million research papers published in more than 6000 journals over the past 15 years. Their pessimistic conclusion was that “the gender gap appears likely to persist for generations”.

The study found that “87 of the 115 disciplines examined have significantly fewer than 45% women authors... Of the gender-biased disciplines, almost all are moving towards parity, though some are predicted to take decades or even centuries to reach it.” For instance: “Physics presently has around 13% women in the last author position, but this figure is only rising by c. 0.1% per year”. On this basis the...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.